Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What types of things are addressed through counseling?
People may choose to seek counseling for a multitude of reasons. Some of the most common concerns include, but are not limited to: anxiety, depression, stress, holistic wellness, identity development (including LGBTQ+, self-esteem, strengths and values identification), career exploration, and relationship concerns. Many people also seek counseling to improve their self-awareness or to engage in personal growth.
Is what I say confidential?
One of the most important aspects of counseling is confidentiality. A client must hold a high degree of trust in order to discuss the concerns they have and work toward making progress on their goals. There are state laws and professional ethics regarding confidentiality which are closely followed in order to support client trust and therapy effectiveness.
Disclosure of client/counseling information is permitted without client consent in the following conditions:
If it is assessed that there is clear and immediate probability of danger or harm to the client(s) or others;
If there is reported abuse, neglect, or abandonment/exploitation of a child/minor or a vulnerable adult; or
Where otherwise required by law.
Where safe and possible in any of the above cases, the counselor always prefers to be transparent about the disclosure and engage the client in the necessary action steps to report or seek an appropriate level of care. The counselor and client working together will help preserve the client's autonomy (to the highest degree possible) and trust in the counseling process.
Disclosure of client/counseling information may also be permitted with client consent upon request. Clients may wish to have details of their counseling treatment shared with their physician(s), school(s), attorney, etc. In cases such as this, the counselor will discuss with the client what information will be disclosed, and the client will sign a Release of Information form.
How can counseling help?
Counselors are highly trained individuals who provide confidential support. Each counseling plan is customized for each client; there is not a "one size fits all" approach to assisting clients with their concerns. In general, however, counseling can help clients by facilitating support, problem identification and exploration, perspective, coping strategies, and skills-building. Due to the holistic and wellness-based counseling approach, clients may experience more benefits from counseling than they initially seek. By engaging in the counseling process, clients may experience symptom reduction/problem resolution, and they may also experience improved intrapersonal satisfaction/personal growth/self-awareness, better relationships, and a greater quality of life. The key to counseling benefits, however, is your investment in the process -- the more you put into it and practice what you learn, the more you will benefit from the process.
How long will counseling take?
Typical counseling sessions last 45-55 minutes per session. The number of sessions per client will vary based on the client's goals, presenting concern(s), as well as the duration and severity of the concern(s). Counseling can be short-term (e.g., addressing a specific concern) or long-term (e.g., addressing more pervasive problems or patterns). Most clients will seek regular weekly or bi-weekly counseling. Often times, clients will begin to recognize benefits or progress within the first couple of sessions. The counselor and client will periodically discuss the client's progress and make adjustments to the frequency of sessions, as needed. As time progresses, the goal is to decrease frequency until the client and counselor believe that the counseling goals have been achieved and the client can sustain their progress on their own. Some clients may choose to have "booster" sessions here-and-there in the future, or they may return to counseling in the future to address additional concerns.
What will occur during counseling sessions?
During your first session, which is typically about 55 minutes, you can expect to discuss the concerns you would like to address in counseling, a detailed personal history, and what goals or outcomes you hope to achieve through counseling. Ongoing counseling sessions will focus exploring and processing your concerns, gaining knowledge and/or perspective, skills-building, etc. When appropriate, counseling homework may be assigned between sessions to practice or strengthen skills, or to help make the most of your counseling experience by allowing for self-exploration of the concern(s) outside of session. If homework is assigned, you can expect to review the homework at the start of your next counseling session.
What does LMHC mean?
The letters "LMHC" after someone's name refer to "Licensed Mental Health Counselor." To attain the LMHC licensure in the state of Florida, an individual has to graduate from a master's or doctorate-level mental health counseling program, complete 1,000 hours of supervised field experience, practicum, and internship during their graduate program, complete 1500 hours of direct face-to-face counseling in no less than 2 years while under supervision after graduation, and pass the National Clinical Mental Heath Counseling Exam, and complete continuing education courses in laws and rules, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS. To maintain licensure as an LMHC, a counselor must maintain good standing and complete a minimum of 25 hours of continuing education bi-annually.
In some states, you'll see counselors have the credential of "LPC" (Licensed Professional Counselor) or similar. As of now, each state has the authority to set the education and experience requirements for licensed counselors, and may use different licensing acronyms.
How is counseling different from psychiatry?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have a focus in psychiatric conditions. Aside from psychiatrists, many general physicians are becoming more comfortable treating some psychiatric conditions. Either way, psychiatry or medical appointments that focus on mental health concerns are brief 5-15 minute appointments that focus on a medical/illness model approach to mental health. This means that the focus will be on symptom identification and treatment by prescription medication or other supplements to correct a physiological imbalance. While medication can be effective in reducing symptoms, side-effects may occur, and results may not be sustainable long-term if medication management is discontinued.
Counseling (also referred to interchangeably as therapy or psychotherapy) is a holistic approach to addressing client concerns by looking at the cause(s) that relate to your concern(s) through exploring the client's past history, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, beliefs, culture, relational systems, skills, access to/knowledge of resources, etc. Actions are taken to assist the client addressing the root of the problem while also improving their moods, behaviors, thoughts patterns, or self-awareness through dialogue, activities, and skills-building techniques. Clients may experience more sustainable improvements due to the holistic benefits of counseling.
Depending on the presenting concern(s) and goals(s) for counseling, a combination of both psychiatry and counseling support may be most effective for client progress.
What is the difference between counseling, therapy, and psychotherapy?
Believe it or not, counseling, therapy, and psychotherapy all refer to the provision of mental health counseling or therapy services by a licensed provider. Similarly, clinicians may refer to themselves as a counselor, therapist, or psychotherapist. Each clinician, however, has a unique approach to the treatment of mental health concerns.
How are counselors different from psychologists?
While both provide mental health services, there are a few key differences between someone who is a licensed psychologist and someone who is a licensed counselor.
Counselors hold, at minimum, a master's degree or higher in an appropriate field, such as clinical mental health counseling. Counseling education programs focus on coursework that allows a solid understanding of human development, multicultural concerns, career development, psychological pathology, treatment, and counseling skills. Counselors are fully equipped to treat a wide array of mental health concerns/mental illnesses and are typically more cost-effective than psychologists. Counselors follow the ethical guidelines set forth by the American Counseling Association.
Psychologists, generally, hold a doctoral degree in the field of psychology field. Their coursework often focuses on and requires more research-based activity, including psychometric assessments. They typically administer a wide range of tests or work with clients who have serious mental illnesses. Psychologists follow standards set forth by the American Psychological Association.